There is no definition for self in the dictionary

September 15, 2009 Candace Morris 3 Comments

You may have noticed a theme around these parts lately. I've been somewhat obsessed with the idea of becoming a "real woman." In the last year, I sewed my own my own dress, learned to make jam and pies, and shot guns. Though I've joked about these things being the crux of my coming of age, I realize that I've treated something rather intentional and meaningful in a cavalier manner.

Lemme s'plain.

One of the ways I've learned to be kinder to myself in the last few years is in self-definition.

In a home where there is X amount of love and Y amount of kids fighting for X amount, a child will do anything to stand out, to form her own identity. A child becomes the "smart" or the "athletic" one; she'll be named the "outgoing" one or the "stubborn" one. These labels are not put there maliciously, but they do indeed stick. We are taught from an early age to focus on one goal, to decide who we will be well before our soul's reveal their essence, be this one person so that we are easy to figure out, easy to handle, easy to love.

I looked at my soul carefully, turning over the rocks, inspecting the bugs. Turns out I had a concrete box poured around the garden of my identity. This box was suffocating my roots and killing off the new growth. For example, I used to hate pink just to hate pink, I used to be so serious because immature behavior was irritating. I never wanted to fit into any status-quo of womanhood so I decided that I don't wear short skirts, I don't draw hearts, and I'd never be caught dead doing something as boring as staring at a flower or using my imagination. Granted, I also didn't do some of these things because they simply did not interest me at the time, but I realize that if I had continued on a path that did not allow for my interests to change, my soul would be stuck. Hell, I was so cut off from my natural desires that I wouldn't even know which new things I would want to try. My opinion about them would have been formed well before I had experienced it.

And that's my point. Why do we form opinions about things we know very little about? Perhaps it's fear that breeds the desire to squelch that which we do not understand with petty definitions and wounded resentment for an identity we couldn't have because someone else already claimed that label.

So I'm working backwards.

I hated pink, so as an experiment, I wore pink fingernail polish for months. It made me laugh all month because of the frivolous joy of being a little girl. Turns out that I actually don't like pink after all, but at least I know that it's because of my natural taste, not bull-shit labeling.

I thought I found sewing and baking boring. So, I decided to delve into it...break some needles, get my prissy hands dirty with dough! Turns out that I love to create, but was SO PARALYZED that I would look stupid in the attempt or that the product would dash my hopes and leave me with a big pill of disappointment to swallow, that I had convinced myself that I was in no way an artist. But I am an artist. I never thought that a pie would show me that more clearly than my writing or my photographs.

I was scared to shoot a gun at first...which is totally typically girly I guess. But because I was in touch with how I felt on the subject ("Hello, anxiety and nerves. Hmmm, you must be scared to shoot off your big toe. This makes perfect sense! Let's be scared"), I was able to stop using every little thing to define myself. Here's the way it sounded in my head,

"Am I the kind of girl that enjoys shooting guns because I want to appear bad-ass to the men in my life? If that is the case, why should it be about how they perceive me rather than what I actually enjoy doing? And what the hell do I actually enjoy doing, after all? Will the other females think I am doing this to just get attention? Am I doing this to get attention? Is that bad? Why is that bad?"

OR

"Am I the kind of girl that won't be interested in firearms because perhaps the men around me will find it emasculating? Should I pretend to be weak and coquettish? Wait, AM I weak and coquettish? Am I even open to the possibility that I could be weak and coquettish? Is it the worst thing in the world to be weak and need saving. Perhaps if I could actually entertain the notion that I was actually weak, then I would find that I wasn't and was just afraid that I would be so it was making it so much worse. Perhaps I could then save myself? But would a man want me if I saved myself?"

OR DING DING DING

"I'd like to explore shooting more. I think I started liking because it's a natural curiosity born from being a cop's daughter. Also, I am a voracious learner and enjoy the intimacy of sharing else's hobbies. I'll spend time with this person who can educate me on how to shoot AND enjoy myself in the process. I will be concerned only with what I think of myself and not drown that voice out with the PERCEIVED opinions that others have about me. Also, I like guns because I DO feel empowered, bad-ass, and sexy."

Yes. I vote for the third option.

But let me tell you, all of this filtering takes an awful lot of work. Many find it an exhausting trait in me; many find it an inspiration. This is not important, and truthfully, I wish I didn't know either way, for everyone is easily-influenced to some degree...and I don't want to be doing it for anyone else but me.

So let's try this:

Hi, I'm Candace.
I like to wear black.
I love books.
I like to watch willow trees and deer.
I like to shoot guns.
I like to bake and create with my hands.
I dislike wearing pink.
I do not like trends.
I distrust groups.
I love to learn.
I like to cry.
I must put everything under a microscope before I can really know it.
I prefer authenticity to politeness.
I'm uncomfortable in short skirts unless I wear tights.
I am modest and introverted.
I'm confident.
I'm smart.
I dislike mixers in my cocktails.
I'm a good friend.
I'm okay with someone disagreeing about the above.
I'm okay with liking someone more than they like me.
I'm okay with not liking someone as much as they like me.
I love my life with Joel.
I am easily irritable and cranky in the morning.
I am forever a student and a damn-fine teacher.
I prefer classic literature.
I love babies.
I love quiet.
I love change.

And there you have it. CRM version 9.15.09. This is by no means an exhaustive definition of Candace. Perhaps tomorrow she'll will learn to love brussel sprouts and all of a sudden despise Prada (GOD FORBID!).

But it really does not matter.
Candace is so much more than what she does or does not like.
And so are you.


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